Bernice King and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) sharply criticized House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-California) and the GOP this week for the right’s continued attack on what they perceive to be Critical Race Theory (CRT).
McCarthy tweeted a video claiming “Critical Race Theory goes against everything Martin Luther King Jr. taught us — to not judge others by the color of their skin,” thus completely misconstruing what CRT is really about. It is also a patent misrepresentation of what the civil rights leader believed and preached.
Such falsehoods, however, are not surprising coming as they do from a leader within a party that has never understood or cared to understand what Martin Luther King Jr. believed anyway and has cynically chosen to exploit CRT to promote its right-wing agenda.
Bernice King, the civil rights leader’s daughter, herself clarified as such in reply to McCarthy’s tweet on Monday. “Rep. McCarthy, I encourage you to study my father’s teachings and words well beyond the last lines of ‘I Have A Dream,’” she wrote. “This nation has yet to firmly commit to the intensive, multi-faceted work of eradicating racism against Black people. You should help with that.”
She then urged the Republican lawmaker to read her father’s final book before his assassination: Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?
Ocasio-Cortez pointed out the inaccuracy of McCarthy’s statement with a quote from Where Do We Go from Here.
“Whites, it must frankly be said, are not putting in a similar mass effort to reeducate themselves out of their racial ignorance. It is an aspect of a sense of superiority that the white people of America believe they have so little to learn.”
– Martin Luther King Jr, 1967 https://t.co/kvNpxyBQe1
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) July 13, 2021
“This quote of [Martin Luther] King’s is not from an early work. It was one of his last words,” Ocasio-Cortez wrote. “If all sorts of folks who claim ‘what MLK would do’ actually studied his work, they would understand he was a radical. And an anticapitalist, too.”
Taking Martin Luther King Jr.’s words out of context and misrepresenting his views is an unfortunate trend among both liberals and the right wing. This practice reached a high last year as the movement for Black lives surged across the country. As the Donald Trump White House egregiously twisted the civil rights leader’s words as an argument against the protests, many liberals wrung their hands over a tweet from Martin Luther King Jr. III, which seemed to validate the uprising.
“As my father explained during his lifetime, a riot is the language of the unheard,” wrote Martin Luther King Jr.’s son as protests were ramping up. As HuffPost catalogued at the time, many white liberals took umbrage at the tweet, saying that the civil rights leader wouldn’t have supported the modern uprisings for Black lives.
Martin Luther King Jr. was outspoken about the very liberals who claimed to hold his values but were “firm” in their denial of his politics and beliefs. As Ocasio-Cortez pointed out, Martin Luther King Jr. was a democratic socialist who once wrote that “capitalism has outlived its usefulness.”
“Martin Luther King, Jr was murdered for confronting white supremacy,” wrote Ocasio-Cortez. “Today GOP who are gutting the very Voting Rights Act King worked for want you to believe he’d support mass disenfranchisement and teaching of racial ignorance.”
She went on to point out the irony of Republicans trying to ban comprehensive education on the history of racism in the U.S. and cynically twisting the historic Black leader’s words to fit their own narrative.
“Ironically, the ineptitude that some Republicans demonstrate re: MLK proves that the multiracial history of the United States *isn’t* taught adequately enough in schools, and that we *should* teach it more deeply,” Ocasio-Cortez continued. “The GOP would do well to stop banning books and start reading them.”